#FemaleFounders No.36: Little Peaches, DisabiliTease

#FemaleFounders No.36: Little Peaches, DisabiliTease

Dance; it’s fun, thrilling, and powerful. Being told you can never dance again is crushing. 

Little Peaches is an Australian burlesque performer based in Liverpool. When she got the news that her health would prevent her from doing what she loves to do most, her passion for dance grew stronger than ever before. 

Not only is Little Peaches the Producer of an international cabaret The Secret Circus, she went on to create her own, sell-out show: DisabilTease. The show featured Little Peaches and other performers with various mobility issues, powering through their struggles and demonstrating awe-inspiring strength and resilience. 

Let’s peel back the curtain and unveil the story of how Little Peaches turned her weakness into a beautiful display of strength. 

1. Why did you create DisabiliTease? What spurred you on?

Six years ago, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) and was told to stop dancing. The next day, I signed up for burlesque classes. With me having EDS and my burlesque teacher having MS, we struggled to find venues that catered to our accessibility needs. After seeing the lack of accessible venues, I vowed to create a show and space that everyone could enjoy; both performers and audience members. 

I became very ill after my condition flared up 18 months ago, resulting in me having to use a wheelchair.  That was a big kick up the butt to say ‘you’ve got to do it.’ My friends had my back and kept telling me that I didn’t have to give up performing. After dancing for the first time in my chair, I knew I could start my own show. 

I also have a lot of friends that have invisible illnesses. They were really afraid to speak out about it because of backlash from the industry and other people. 

I felt that DisabiliTease should be about being out and proud. 

2. What are the unique challenges that you have faced with setting up DisabiliTease?

Accessibility. Originally, the show was going to be at a different venue. Finding a space that had access to wheelchairs for entry into the building as well as having accessible bathrooms (preferably with a hoist) and a stage. I also wanted to have a British sign language interpreter and audio descriptor. Being able to get the budget for everything I needed was very difficult.

 

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3. What makes you proudest of your event?

We pulled it off! The event sold out and I had so many messages from people thanking me because they had been struggling for years to go to events comfortably. People were grateful to see people with disabilities perform – you can’t be what you can’t see. It was a lot of work, but so worth it.

4. What are your favourite things about performing and having your own event?

My condition causes chronic pain 24/7. Being on stage, for those three and a half minutes of dancing – I don’t feel that pain. It’s a massive thrill. I pay for it for a few days afterwards, but when I’m up there it’s amazing. Hearing the audience makes me feel powerful, it’s incredibly empowering.  

My favourite thing about the event is the audience. I was thrilled to see their reactions and hear their feedback. About half of the audience had mobility devices; it was wonderful to see that they were comfortable.

 

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5. What’s your biggest achievement in your career to date?

Definitely DisabiliTease. I’ve performed and have been published all over the world, but nothing compares to that show. It’s had the biggest impact of anything I’ve ever done.

It’s definitely going to happen again. I’ve had performers from different countries contact me asking to perform in the show. 

6. Do you ever suffer from Imposter Syndrome? If so, how do you tackle it and move forward?

Yes, 100%. Last year, I was offered shows in seven different countries. Every time someone reached out to me asking me to perform, I found myself wondering if I could do it or if I was worthy of the opportunity.

But, I’ve got an amazing team of people behind me of how capable I am. My burlesque teacher messages me all the time saying how proud she is of me and reminds me that I’m good enough.

 

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7. What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?

My teacher would say to me all the time – ‘When you’re up there, you’re up there for you. They’re lucky to see you up there, so you take that power’. She would also remind me that you can’t be what you can’t see, which inspired me to keep going and show other people with mobility aids that they can keep going too. The best universal advice that I received from my mum, best friends and other performers was ‘You’re worthy’.

8. Tell us about another brilliant businesswoman or performer that you think our readers should know about

Eve Howlett, a.k.a Naked Eve. She’s amazing. She’s my Co-Producer and the Director of a show we do called The Secret Circus. We do shows all over the UK and we now have a bi-monthly show in Los Angeles. The Secret Circus has sold old in four different countries so far. Eve is the brains of the operation here in the UK, she’s the most determined woman I’ve ever met. She inspires me so much when it comes to the producing side of things. I would never have been able to do DisabiliTease without her.

9. What are 2 characteristics you look for when you are hiring someone to work for you?

With performers, I look for resilience. When it comes to having a chronic illness, you need back up plans for being on stage if something goes wrong. One of my performers had a flare-up during her routine, so she had to adapt her act completely.

I also look for determination, which isn’t hard to find in the cabaret world – you have to be determined to make it anywhere! And, of course, passion. If you don’t have passion for your art, the audience doesn’t feel it.

10. If someone was struggling with their confidence, what would your advice be?

We all struggle. You are never alone. You will find that confidence again but in the meantime, surround yourself with wonderful people who remind you how fantastic you are.

 

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I lost all my confidence when I fell really ill 18 months ago. I had succumbed to the fact that I wouldn’t dance again and my producing dreams were a world away. But thanks to some crucial people in my life, I learnt that my disabilities won’t stop me and my wheelchair doesn’t make me less-than. It actually gives me a freedom that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Having to be public about my condition instead of hiding it like I had for years gave me the kick up the butt to create DisabiliTease. 

Confidence in my show was something that I battled with because ticket sales were slow, which worried the venue. My cast and crew, friends and avid supporters pushed hard to get the word out there and we ended up selling out a week before.

Now that I’ve found my voice and my confidence there’s no shutting me up.

11. If you could magically change one thing about your business now, what would it be?

I’d make everything accessible to all. What a dream that would be! 

12. If you had a marketing budget of £1,000 what would you spend the money on?

I’d hire someone to do social media. Social media is really hard for burlesque because of the amount of things that get blocked. With DisabiliTease, I went around handing out flyers in the rain trying to get people to come to the event. Also getting someone to design posters going up around the city and radio adverts would be useful.

The show must go on

Want to read more from our Female Founder series? Our latest interviews feature Helen-Rutherford Gregory from SisterHub and Cath Kerr and Dr Liz Royle from KRTS, give them a read!

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